Heartbreak, disappointment, growing up and barefoot waterskiing are critical themes in Tyson Motsenbocker new album, “Milk Teeth,” which he showcased when he stopped by Waco’s Common Grounds recently to play a few songs for everyone who filled the backyard.
The San Diego native’s show not only featured great music, but also real, raw stories from the artist’s life and the revelatory lessons he’s learned as well as helping raise money for a good cause.
It was an inspirational evening of music with two opening acts setting the stage for the rest of the night. First, Grayson Graham of Thinking Caps held an acoustic set including “Always” and some unreleased songs. Titus Haug, who is also a San Diego-based musician, followed with another acoustic set. Haug has been touring with Motsenbocker since late September and will continue until mid-November. His set included songs from his album “Shaky Sighs” released in July 2022.
Motsenbocker took the stage and was backed by his band, made up of Matt Wright on keys, Daniel Griffo on drums, Patrick Dodd on bass and Adam Carpenter on guitar.
“Matt makes up a new song fresh out of the depths of his creativity, and I introduce the band to you in whatever sort of mood he presents to us,” Motsenbocker said before Wright began playing an 80s, “Stranger Things” inspired synth beat, to which Griffo, Dodd and Carpenter quickly added to.
Motsenbocker took breaks between songs to interact with the crowd, saying he read online that the keys to better stage presence were less silence and more crowd participation.
One song was introduced by Motsenbacker retelling the story of his uncle, a barefoot waterskier.
He said his uncle was his hero, and then, one day, he was waiting outside for his uncle to come to the house. His dad walked out and told him that his aunt and uncle had split up and that his uncle wouldn’t be coming ever again.
He said that he realized that growing up is a lot of things, “but I think more than anything, growing up is disappointment. It’s this realization that the things that you thought of as a kid, you know, the other worlds that were real and the relationships and the adventures and anything can happen. As you get older and older, you realize those things aren’t going to happen, at least not the way that I thought they were going to.”
Motsenbocker couples that seemingly grim theme with positivity. For this tour, the singer partnered with Plant with Purpose, an organization that focuses on planting trees and teaching people how to sustainably farm in their communities. “It’s really cool. They just planted their 50 millionth tree this year,” Motsenbocker said.
Each person in the crowd took out their phone when prompted and signed up for a free email list. “Plant with Purpose will plant a tree in your name in the country of Haiti, where I used to live when I was a kid,” Motsenbocker explained. “Also, at the merch table, if you tip, every dollar goes to Plant with Purpose, and every dollar plants one tree.”
Motsenbocker continued his set until the final song prompted another interesting backstory.
“I finished the whole album, and then I thought maybe we need one more song,” Motsenbocker said. He explained that the song, “Buyer Confidence” was inspired by his “nerdy” love of podcasts about economics.
“There’s this thing in economics that says that basically if people think that the economy is gonna get better, then it will. And if people think the economy is gonna get worse, then it will. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said.
Motsenbocker dived deep and took that beyond mere financial affairs.
“I was thinking about our future as an economy. What’s our responsibility to our own future? I guess, if adulthood is disappointment, we have two options. We can either let it defeat us, or we can do our very best to be the closest version of that hero that let us down or the hero that we had as a kid that wasn’t real,”
Alone, with only a guitar and a microphone at his disposal, Motsenbocker sang the opening verse of “Buyer Confidence.”
As the song progressed into the ending chorus, the rest of the band moved from their positions on stage to circle around the microphone as well.
Motsenbocker said the song may seem kind of sad, but to him, it’s hopeful. The final lyrics repeat until the end of the song: “Don’t let me down easy, just let me down.”
I think he’s right — they are pretty hopeful.
Learn more about the artist on his website tysonmotsenbocker.com.